Archives for October 2011

Carving Pumpkins

Every year I carve some pumpkins for a few clients.  I do not do anything fancy, nor do I use any tools but for a floral knife, and a drill.  A drill?  They are great for drilling eyes.  I do get mildly grumpy about hauling pumpkins up my back stairs to my carving station in the kitchen-but all in all, I like the process.  Buck cooks; I carve.  I only carved 3 for home this year.  I have so many kids come, I don’t dare skip this traditional part of Halloween.

Well, maybe scooping the goop part isn’t the most fun.  But picking out just the right pumpkins, the plan for the face, the carving and the lighting are all part of a fall ritual I enjoy.


I can’t wait until later!

At A Glance: The Boston Ivy



mid October

mid October

mid October


late October

late October

late October

Pink Frosting

Rob and I had a contest going on by 8:45 this morning-he sent me his photographs of the effects of the first frost-and I showed him mine.  We were both out early; it was 29 degrees, and there was plenty to see.  I told him my pictures were better-but that is not really the truth.  His pictures are beautiful, moody-atmospheric.  Mine are pink.  I will post his pictures, but since I am the keeper of this blog, I get to go first. To follow-some pictures of pink frosting.

I have a few frilly pink and red cabbages left from my fall plantings-they were exquisite this morning- touched, encrusted, illuminated and extraordinary, given the frost.  Today-a sure sign that that nature means business about the change of the seasons.  I had frost on my windshield at 6:45 am; heavy fog descended once the sun came up.  Am I ready for all of this change?  No.  As for the pink, I like the look.         

I have no plan to write about the mechanism by which moisture in the air condenses on surfaces today-this is a discussion best left for January, when all any of us have to think about is ice.  This morning’s temperature dip was just a promise of what is to come.  The cabbages readily handle the insult.  Their leaves are very thick-weather resistant.  The kales and cabbages-they buy me the time it takes to get used to the idea of winter.        

 Plenty of plants still look fine.  The roses and anemones still have lots of color.  I planted some Geranium Rozanne in my new perennial garden this spring; they are full of blooms.  My beech ferns and European ginger look as good as they did in August.  Most of my trees still have all of their leaves.  Lots of my landscape is evergreen.  This time of year I and thankful for that. Once the butterburrs get cut down, I top dress them with ground hardwood bark mulch for the winter.  It looks good now, and will be entirely decomposed by spring.  I did the same for the snakeroot, and brunnera; they gave up the garden several weeks ago. 

The limelight hydrangeas are a deep shade of rose pink, and the yellow magnolia leaves are starting to turn.  But the kales and cabbages are just hitting their stride.  Cold temperatures bring out the color. These pale pink leaves-wow.  No other plant, no other season, no other plant does pale pink quite like this.  As delicate as the color is, these leaves will shrug off the first frost as soon as the sun warms them.   

The sun made quick work of dispelling the frost. But it was beautiful while it lasted.

Earthbound Farms

Rob took 5 days off last week to take a little holiday in California.  Every holiday for him is at least partly a busman’s holiday. A busman’s holiday?  This refers to people who do much the same sort of thing on their vacation that they do at work.  The reference speaks particularly to a bus driver who takes a driving holiday-as opposed to a stay put on the beach holiday, or a cruise holiday, or a skiing holiday.  Rob on vacation-he is gardening.  He does a great job of putting his eye to the gardening news, no matter where he is.  

So I get a look via his photographs of the fruit stand owned and operated by Earthbound Farms.  The same day I am writing about how a long twisted stem is an element that could make a pumpkin spooky, he is checking out the fall harvest of California grown pumpkins and gourds that have long beautifully twisted stems.  He tells me given his visit to California,  that fall pumpkins are beautifully defined by what is preserved of their vines and stems.       

Via Wikipedia, I learn that Earthbound Farms is the largest grower of organic produce in the United States.  150 farmers cultivate some 30,000 acres of land.  The well known writer Michael Pollan refers to Earthbound Farms as ” a company that arguably represents industrial scale organic gardening at its best.”  No wonder Rob was interested in their side of the road fruit stand.  He saw varieties of pumpkins with which he was unfamiliar.   

He was very keen about the arrangement of the stand.  Pumpkins of different varieties were heaped high by variety on the ground.  As much as I love an ordinary pumpkin representing orange in October, I am interested in all of those other less common varieties.  Like any other gardener, I willing to experience variation.  Whether I am looking at plants or produce, I like the opportunity to know a name or origin.  The best of all-a plant, an idea, a design, an arrangement, a move, and a story that goes with.    

I have seen the pumpkin Jarradale before-I just never knew its name.  The story of this pumpkin variety I need to absorb.  I will confess that I am surprised that Rob found pumpkins for sale in California.  This surprise represents an illiteracy of a regional sort.  How could fall pumpkins ripen in such a climate?  I know-what an ignorant idea.  I must have believed that the fall harvest is specific to the midwest.  OK, I need to attend a fall 101 course in the fruits of the harvest.  My photo visit to Earthbound Farms courtesy of Rob-eye opening. 

I loved the crate and iron chairs with grass cushions-what an inspired gesture. 

The left long stems on these pie pumpkins were perfect to hook over a wire spanning the length of the fascia board of the fruit stand building.  The same pumpkins line the railing.  The display would have encouraged me to take everything home that I could. 

I find it very interesting that every farm, nursery, or stand at market I frequent features gourds distinctively all their own.  Each grower decides what seed to buy; every result is different.  This is one of the simple pleasures of being a gardener. The element of surprise, mixed with a big dose of individuality.  The need to imagine, choose, grow, and shop-and work like crazy, yes.  This describes farmers and gardeners alike.   

Should you garden near me,  the fruit stand of Earthbound Farms is not available for a quick visit.  No harm here-we have plenty of local growers who do a great job.  I make it my business to patronize them, as I want them to be successful.  The efforts of our farming community are never so clear than they are at this time of year.  Whether you live in Michigan, California, New York, or Louisiana-it is harvest time.  My advice?  Load up, locally, whatever you can.